The Parliament has held back its opinion on a new EU regulation on organic production and labelling rules, aimed at buying more time to negotiate on legislative powers and restrict the GMO content of organic products.
The Parliament adopted, on 29 March 2007, an opinion report on ‘Organic production and labelling of organic products’, prepared by the Committee on agriculture and rural development. However, at the request of the rapporteur, French MEP Marie-Hélène Aubert (Greens/EFA) (who referred to the rule 53 of the rules procedure of the Parliment) the plenary did not vote on the amended legislative resolution and the regulation was sent back to the Agricultural committee. The Council needs the Parliament’s amended legislative resolution on the dossier before final adoption.
The reason for referring the regulation back to the Committee is that the Parliament insists on the new regulation being made subject to the co-decision procedure since it covers the production and distribution of processed food in the single market (which comes under co-decision) and not just agricultural products (which comes under the consultation procedure). “Referring the report back to Committee enables the EP to negotiate for co-decision rights with the Commission,” said Aubert.
The key amendments (which are not binding on the Council) of the adopted report propose stricter overall rules on GMOs and ask farmers to “supply evidence that they have taken all necessary steps” to avoid an “adventitious contamination” with GMOs. The Commission is asked to draft up, by January 2008, a framework directive setting out measures to help avoid contaminating the food chain with GMOs and applying the ‘polluter-pays’ principle.
In addition, the MEPs backed an amendment (324 votes to 282, with 50 abstentions) seeking to reduce the threshold of accidental contamination from 0.9% to 0.1% in the case of organic products.
“Parliament has proposed a range of amendments, which improve the original proposal and the Commission will take them on board,” promised Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.
However, the Commission disagrees with the Parliament’s demand for more details in the regulation – the EU executive wants the the basic rules to be stipulated more clearly and logically.
The Commission also refuses to extend the scope of the regulation to cover other areas such as textiles, collective catering and cosmetics. “We can’t take all steps in one go, we already extend the current regulation to cover wine and agriculture. Other sectors are in such early stages that regulating them now could hamper their development. We plan to look at these sectors in 2011,” said Boel.